OPINION: By screwing over Swifties, Ticketmaster has picked a fight with the wrong fanbase.
The utter debacle that was the ‘Verified Fan’ pre-sale for the Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ tour – which was supposed to allow qualifying fans the chance to buy before the free-for-all public sale – saw the mighty Ticketmaster site come crashing down.
Fans were stuck in queues for hours, only to find the box office was barren when they eventually reached the front. Some who’d received Verified codes were unable to access the queue at all.
For those who eventually saw tickets were available, the dynamic pricing policy saw fans reportedly quoted prices of up to $700 for tickets that were originally priced between $200-$300. This ‘Dynamic Pricing’ initiative was supposed to discourage the ticket scalpers reselling for exorbitant prices by raising prices in line with demand. It failed. Those tickets are now selling for thousands instead of hundreds on the secondary market. Good work, Ticketmaster. Is it any surprise the Bad Blood is boiling over?
Now Ticketmaster has cancelled Friday’s public sale “due to extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”
It’s a mess. But it’s also an opportunity. An opportunity to truly say “no more”, and end Ticketmaster’s reign of terror over our favourite sports games, music concerts and theatre shows.
Fans won’t Shake It Off
Ticketmaster is used to copping flack from music fans, for its sky-high fees, abject failures to combat the bots sniping tickets from real fans, and more recently for its dynamic pricing initiative. It’s a truly disgusting display of unfettered capitalism, which turns the universal joy of live music into a first class-only experience for the most affluent.
But this feels different. This time Ticketmaster has thoroughly annoyed arguably the most passionate fanbase in music. Of course, there’ll never be enough tickets for everyone, but the sense of injustice and anger felt by Taylor Swift fans won’t be forgotten.
The momentum is growing to demand permanent action against Ticketmaster. The cancelling of Friday’s public sale shows the company is on the ropes and daren’t risk another problem. There’s a huge swell of anti-Ticketmaster sentiment out there, it’s being reported on by all the major news organisations. Fans, artists, and politicians can all do their bit.
Firstly, it’d help if Taylor herself spoke out on this. It shouldn’t rest on her shoulders, but if there’s anyone in the music industry with the power to ensure a new era of fairness for their fanbase, it’s her. She’s taken on tech before, ensuring artists were paid royalties for free Apple Music trials.
But she’s yet to comment on this Ticketmaster debacle – few artists ever do. Some fans are justifiably upset with her for the perception she must have opted into the dynamic pricing scam in the first place. That hasn’t been established, but it’s far more difficult for fans to say no to Ticketmaster than big name artists. The service became a monopoly after the Live Nation merger in 2009 and now there’s no other game in town for big events. They really are the ticket masters, but artists can and should do their part to protect loyal fans.
It’s easy to say fans should just boycott the biggest events until something is done about the company’s unfair, exploitative, and damn right greedy policies. But if the biggest fans don’t buy the tickets, someone else will. Why should the most ardent supporters of these bands and artists miss out?
It’s an incredibly tough pill to swallow, but I’ve accepted I’ll just never buy tickets to a big concert again after Ticketmaster’s imposition of dynamic pricing. I won’t be able to afford it, and I won’t pay above face value out of FOMO.
It’s also up to the politicians to act in the interest of the people. High profile democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (aka AOC) has called for Ticketmaster to be broken-up. There’s never been a better time to call your MP or representatives’ office and demand they take on the Ticketmaster problem.
Money for nothing
All of this is even more galling when you realise there’s never been a company that reaps such incredible rewards from doing so little. If there is, I can’t think of it. Yet its share of the spoils is unfathomably high, due to the ticketing monopoly it has been allowed to create over the years.
My wife and I always joke that we buy three tickets for every event, one for me, one for her, and one for Ticketmaster. Check the fees next time you checkout. For every two tickets you buy, the fees amount to a third. More Perfect Union, which advocates for breaking up Ticketmaster, says the fees sometimes amount to 78% of the price of the ticket.
It’s just too much. It has to stop. You don’t mess with Swifties; they’ll remember it all too well.